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Mouse Chills with Two Tribal-class Proposals


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This post was originally published on June 28th, 2021.

So Haida's gone.  That sucks.  I want a replacement; a historical one that Canadians can feel proud of.  The two candidates I propose are between HMCS Huron G24 and HMCS Athabaskan R79.

Huron
s1TtZJt.jpg  uokQziI.gif
Based Upon:  HMCS Huron G24, second generation British-built Tribal-class destroyers

Huron is the simplest solution.  Like Haida, Huron was built in British dockyards with the lessons learned after the sinking of HMS Afridi and HMS Gurkha, replacing their twin 120mm/45 X-mount with a twin 102mm/45 mount instead.  This gives her the same gun layout as Haida with six 120mm/45 guns in an A-B-Y layout with a pair of 102mm secondaries where X-turret should be.  In addition, she has Haida's single quadruple torpedo launcher.

In order to add Huron into the game, the problems with Haida need to be addressed. Haida is too competitive at tier VII.  I'd argue that the Tribal-class in general is too strong for this tier and the easiest way to correct this is to give Haida the ol' "Giulio Cesare treatment" Wargaming attempted:  Clone Haida at a higher tier and make the necessary stat adjustments to conform to tier VIII norms.  This would preserve her game play while sparing the poor baby seals having their head stoved in. Here's the compulsory changes:

  • Increase her structural hull plating from a mix of 16mm and 19mm to a homogeneous 19mm.
  • Increase her superstructure plating from 10mm to 13mm
  • Increase her base surface detection.*

The first two are simple solutions and bring her into line with the armour profiles of other tier VIII destroyers.  The only contentious change here is to that of her surface detection.  One of Haida's biggest advantages at tier VII was her very low surface detection, starting with 6.49km base.  With a full concealment build, this got as low as 5.67km.  The jump in tier gives our new ship access to the Concealment System Modification 1 upgrade, further reducing detection by another 10%.  If we applied this to Haida as-is, her surface detection could get as low as 5.1km.  This is better than anything else within her matchmaking and is (in my opinion, at least) completely unnecessary.  The way I see it, there are two options to go with.

  1. Adjust her base surface detection so that between upgrades, commander skills and camouflage, she matches Haida's old concealment.  In this case, we're looking at 7.21km base.
  2. Adjust her base surface detection to match that of her sister ship, HMS Cossack with 6.97km base. 

With Cossack's concealment, her adjusted surface detection after all upgrades is 5.48km which is one of the best within her Matchmaking, rivalled only by the Kagero-class and Asashio-class destroyers (5.37km), Cossack herself and being functionally identical to that of Lightning (5.52km) Neustrashimy (5.56km), Shimakaze (5.59km), Chung Mu (5.66km), Haida (5.67km) and Jutland (5.7km).  While I don't feel that Huron would need to match Cossack in order to be competitive, it is nice to have the same values if only for the sake of consistency.  I leave this decision up to Wargaming.

The only other change I might make to Huron's performance would be to give her Cossack's torpedo range.  Haida's torpedoes are identical to those of Cossack barring the latter having 2km more reach.  This change probably isn't necessary, but it's worth looking into given the increased presence of Surveillance Radar Huron will be facing.

Thoughts & Feels:  This is really (REALLY) easy for Wargaming to implement.  There are a few problems, though.  The first is that it will need to be shoe-horned into what I imagine is already a busy play-testing schedule.  Making sure this ship is balanced is going to be a challenge, especially with Haida's performance always lingering in the back of people's heads.  Modelling wise, Wargaming doesn't get off the hook.  Though they can initially clone Haida, they need to add her steel maple-leaf to Huron's rear funnel (give it to Haida too while you're at it).  Surely that can be ripped off Yukon, though (at least that damn ship can be good for something). She's also going to need a new coat of paint. 

But more to the point:  Who wants to buy a second Haida if you already have the first?  And for a higher price, I might add.  I mean, sure, making Huron available for people that didn't get Haida and want a Canadian Tribal-class that largely mirrors her performance is a nice gesture but the number of people that will purchase her is diminished somewhat. Maybe there's some incentive if Huron ends up feeling competitive enough to warrant adding to Ranked or Clan rosters.  But the duplication of Haida's game play, albeit a tier higher, isn't exactly a compelling sales argument.

Historically, at least, Huron is a good choice for the simple fact that she shares a lot of Haida's wartime service.  While not as "fightingest" as Haida, she does have a scrappy record.  May I also say that her ship badge is gorgeous.

Athabaskan
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Based upon:  HMCS Athabaskan (II) R79, Canadian-built and modified Tribal-class destroyer.

The alternative, of course, is to offer a similar vessel but with different game play.  To this end, one of the Canadian-built Tribals out of Halifax's shipyards may be a better option.

Athabaskan is a much more ambitious project as it requires introducing a new main armament to the Tribal-class. Athabaskan's weapons have more in common with HMS Cossack than Haida, with eight guns instead of six.  But rather than 120mm/45s of Cossack, Athabaskan instead uses rapid-fire 102mm/45s. The 102mm/45 Mk XIX is the primary armament for Black Swan, the tier 1 British cruiser and it appears as secondaries on many mid-tier British-built battleships and cruisers along Haida herself.  The secondary weapons have the following universal characteristics:

  • HE Shell Damage:  1,500
  • HE Penetration: 17mm
  • Muzzle Velocity: 811m/s
  • Air Resistance Factor: 0.33
  • Projectile Mass: 15.88kg
  • Fire Chance: 6%
  • Reload Time: 3 seconds

Black Swan's, being tier I weapons, have (understandably) throttled performance, using a different shell with lower damage (750 alpha), a longer reload (6 seconds) and less air resistance more reminiscent of 102mm AP shells (0.314, see below).  However, what this does give us is some soft stats for the gun handling with a 10º/s gun rotation rate.  Furthermore, we can look at some of the Royal Navy destroyers which use 102mm guns for indicators of Athabee's AP shells.  HMS Valkyrie and HMAS Vampire, the tier III British and Commonwealth destroyers respectively, are armed with the 102mm/45 QF Mk V gun which is the predecessor to the dual-purpose anti-aircraft weapon that would become the 102mm/45 QF Mk XVI (and later XVI*) that Athabee uses.  The two tier III destroyers use different ammunition.  Vampire uses a 31lb ammunition type while Valkyrie uses the more modern 38lb version.  We can thus lean on Valkyrie's APfor a better indicator of what Athabee's AP shell would look like.  We get the following stats:

  • AP Shell Damage: 1,800
  • AP Penetration 4km / 8km / 12km:  74mm / 44mm / 27mm
  • Muzzle Velocity:  811m/s
  • Air Resistance: 0.314
  • Projectile Mass: 17.35kg
  • Krupp:  1,374
  • Reload Time: 5.8 seconds
  • Gun Rotation Rate: 10º/s

From all of this, we can comfortable estimate Athabee's final gun performance:

  • AP Shell Damage: 1,800
  • HE Shell Damage: 1,500
  • HE Penetration: 17mm
  • Fire Chance: 6%
  • Muzzle Velocity: 811m/s
  • Reload Time:  Between 3 seconds and 6 seconds.
  • Gun Rotation Rate: 10º/s

For their gun calibre, these shells have good damage values and average fire setting characteristics. Their rate of fire is (potentially) excellent but their ballistics are very (very!) poor with terrible energy preservation and a light shell. However, you can probably see the problem with these guns right from the word go:  They do not have sufficient penetration to directly damage the hulls of same-tier destroyers or the superstructures of same-tier battleships.  There are multiple solutions possible here and I leave it up to Wargaming which avenues they would like to explore.  Some of these solutions include but are not limited to:

  1. Keep her HE as is.  Improve her AP shell to compensate.
  2. Give her a single, universal ammunition type.
  3. Increase her HE shell penetration artificially to 19mm, lower its fire chance dramatically to compensate.

I foresee option #1 and #2 causing problems.  I don't want to see a Crawling Smoke Akizuki that's harder to spot, harder to pin down and firing a universal ammunition type that's as effective against lolibotes as it is larger targets (as an improved AP shell may become even in the case of #1 if they're buffed too much), That's just asking for trouble in the BALANS™ department. Similarly, I don't want to see a gunship that stands off at a distance from objectives because it's too easy to be spotted and so it spends its time plinking at big ships for fear of being picked off by cruisers and other destroyers. What's most important to me is that the anti-destroyer nature is preserved and I want that to come at the expense of being able to engage larger targets effectively  I don't want to see this ship being good at hunting fatties but poor at fighting destroyers.  To this end, option #3 (or something akin to it) seems best.  Yes, Athabaskan can still be an angry smoke cloud spitting out rainbow arcs of shells at bigger ships, but the effectiveness of that gunfire should be (very) limited.  If this combination necessitates this ship appearing as a tier IX vessel instead of tier VIII, so be it.  For the rest, she should keep close to the Haida's performance characteristics with the same suite of consumables, similar hit point values and agility.  Her concealment should again mirror the discussion for Huron above.  Given the potential efficacy of her guns, I don't see her getting more than Haida's 8km range-torpedoes. 

There are some obvious balance opportunities for Wargaming here to tinker with.  Her reload time is completely malleable however I think it's best to keep them to the faster side of things at the expense of shell performance.  Once Athabee starts flirting with anywhere close to a 5 second reload, she becomes too similar to HMS Cossack just with different smoke.  Thus keeping her reload to the faster side of things (between 3 and 4 seconds) but with crappy (TERRIBLE) individual shell stats would be the way I'd like to see the ship go.  This does allow for an opening to make that "universal ammunition type" option possible if in a very queer manner.  Athabee could have only AP shells, analogous to British Light Cruiser SAP rounds.  However, keep their penetration TERRIBLE such that they would struggle to penetrate 32mm at 10km, even when striking a flat broadside.  This would force the ship to either aim for superstructures or use torpedoes to engage larger ships.  It would also give other destroyers a fighting chance against her by going bow or stern in.  Athabee could still have a ridiculously high rate of fire.  Similarly, Wargaming could totally play with her shell damage values to keep the high cycle rate of her guns up without yielding big numbers.  It will be annoying rather than dangerous to be in a cruiser or battleship being fired upon by Athabee.  The final area where the Tribal-class has proved troublesome (and subject to easy balance tweaks) is the fire arcs of their guns. Just depending on how much broadside Athabee needs to give in order to bring six and then eight guns to bear can artificially throttle her damage output too.  This is not even including other elements such as the aforementioned concealment debate and the hitting power of her fish.  So Wargaming has lots of wiggle room to get the right feel for this ship.

Thoughts & Feels:  I haven't been able to find any photographs of Athabaskan with the R79 pennant number.  All that are available are of her 219 pennant after she had been refit and lost her rear mounted 102mm turrets.  Thus, the Athabaskan I'm asking for represents the ship as Canada perceived her for her role in World War Two and how she was originally built but not how she spent most of her career.  Construction delays ensured that she never saw service in that conflict and would instead serve in the Korean War and post-war with other armaments. 

Athabaskan is, to me, the ship I want to see more.  I admit a bias here; I already have Haida and should Huron arrive as proposed, I am likely to play the tier VII ship more than the tier VIII (because it's Haida).  "Athabee" at least offers something new to players who already have the former ship.   There is, of course, risks here.  New doesn't necessarily mean successful or better.  There is every chance that something could go wrong with her development or that as-proposed, she's still too powerful and she needs to lose some of the elements that I think should define her.  The needs of BALANS™ do supersede proposals.

  While there isn't a direct parallel between my experiences with Wargaming as of late and the 1949 "incident", I can at least hope they take notice how that particular situation was resolved. 

Commonwealth Tech Tree

It's a must that the Tribal-class appear in whatever form of destroyer tech-tree that ends up for the British Commonwealth and picking off Huron and Athabaskan as a premium isn't the only way to get these ships, and this proposed implementation, into the game.  A tier VIII or Tier IX British Commonwealth Tribal-class is all but a shoo-in.  Having the stock Tribal with six120mm guns with an option to upgrade to eight 102mm guns would certainly be interesting (and probably popular if done right) and it would certainly reflect Canada's own historical ship building with the class.  History and fun gameplay all wrapped into one seems an easy decision to me but I'm not in charge of such things. 

There are a couple of problems, however.

The high-tier options for the Commonwealth line are rather limited with the Tribals competing for space with the Battle and Daring-class ships.  However, we still don't know (a) If the British Commonwealth will ever get a tech tree (b) Will it split down Canadian / Australian / Indian lines with the rest of the Commonwealth 'lumped in' together similar to how the Dutch and Pan European lines played out and (c) What gimmicks will appear for the Commonwealth ships.

I have my own pet theory that Wargaming should go down the route of making a DDE line with the ships sacrificing main-battery and torpedo armament slots for improved anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare.  These modifications were highly commonplace among the Commonwealth nations and we introduce ships very much akin to HMS Druid's gun layout.  Imagine a Tribal with only a pair of bow mounted 102mm guns.  A Daring or Jutland-class with the same but with their 113mm guns and only a single torpedo launcher.  This pattern carries over into the lower tiers as well with ships from the Wickes, A and C-class all having anti-surface ship weapons stripped out to improve anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare, representing not just Cold-War era ships but also vessels that fought during the earliest stages of World War Two.  For the DDE line to work, though, submarines need to be fully introduced and working well before a whole line can show up to make their lives miserable.

While it might be cool if Wargaming gave us the option of choosing which hull form to use, in practice we saw that players are not willing to sacrifice anti-shipping ability to buff themselves to a more situational role.  The "C-Hulls" of many American destroyers were largely superfluous.  So the Commonwealth techtree would need to be purpose-built and balanced around this DDE role rather than it being a secondary option if Wargaming chooses to go this route.  This doesn't leave room for a six-gun Huron or an eight-gun Athabaskan.

With all of this up in the air, I think pursuing either Huron or Athabaskan as a premium in the immediate future makes the most sense.  They can focus on an anti-surface role and be good at it before the question of how Commonwealth ships should engage submarines becomes an important subject of debate.

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